At Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Renault-Nissan Alliance head Carlos Ghosn has said he plans to bring an autonomous connected car to the market in 2016.
With 110 models sold in more than 100 markets, Renault-Nissan is the fourth largest car-maker in the world, and through cars such as the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf (pictured) has already become one of the largest makers of electric vehicles as well.
With electric cars well-accepted and growing in popularity, Renault-Nissan is turning to autonomous vehicles as the next stage of the evolution of the automobile.
“This is a trend which is going to transform our product,” Ghosn told the audience at the Keys to the Connected Lifestyle keynote event at MWC. “It is resonating a lot with consumers.”
AT&T Mobile Business Solutions president and CEO Ralph de la Vega said AT&T had already found customers were willing to put off the purchase of a new vehicle in anticipation of connected features that would emerge in the near future.
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The autonomous vehicles differ from true driverless vehicles, such as the ones Google has been testing in California, as humans retain an element of control. Ghosn said they will limit accidents and make driving more pleasant.
In 2016, Renault-Nissan will bring to market car models with the ability to drive autonomously in traffic jams, with the driver able to take his or her hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. “That’s ready today, we just need the regulators to accept it,” said Ghosn.
Ghosn went on to predict that by 2018, a second wave of innovation around autonomous cars would see autonomous highway driving begin to go mainstream,
He said city driving would go mainstream by 2020 and conceded it was much more complicated because the technology to make sure autonomous vehicles are able to take rational decisions in emergencies is not yet ready.
True driverless cars will not arrive for at least a decade, said Ghosn, due to problems around regulation and cyber security.
Collaboration will be key
Ghosn went on to discuss the competitive landscape, saying he welcomed collaboration in the development of future cars – and the possible entry of Apple into the market – as something that would drive more widespread innovation.
He has already teamed up with Nasa to share intel on advanced robotics, remote control and other technologies that could benefit earthbound vehicles, as well as Martian ones.
“We are working with a lot of startups. We are in Silicon Valley to be sure we know what startups are working on and associate ourselves with the people developing technology that’s important to us,” said Ghosn.
“There are so many unknowns and we cannot solve all the problems ourselves, so there are a lot of opportunities for startups and competitors that invest and develop new technology.”